Up close and personal with Binibining Tagum 2024

Up close and personal with Binibining Tagum 2024
Contributed photo

WHO would have thought that the newly crowned Binibining Tagum 2024 is only 18 years old? From how she intelligently presented her insights during the two rounds of Q&A during the final pageant night to how she carried herself when one of her earrings accidentally fell while she was being interviewed, she consistently exuded the utmost brilliance and confidence.

I have always been one of her avid fans since we met at the Musa Pink fashion show in 2023 where we walked on the runway together. When I watched her during the Binibining Tagum 2024 finals night on March 2, I had already proclaimed myself as the president of her fans’ club. She maintained an exquisite performance from start to finish. Hence, I was no longer surprised when she was crowned Binibining Tagum 2024.

I had so much fun with my short chitchat with Gwen Stefanie Etang. Read on to know more about why I love this young (role) model from the north!

Fashion Nook: Knowing you as a passion-driven young woman, I’d like to hear from you where that incessant motivation comes from. And why?

Gwen: It’s not something I learned, that’s for sure. That drive has always been innate to me. In fact, I struggled a lot with focus and motivation growing up because I couldn’t sit still for too long nor could I find the patience to power through topics I had zero interest in. Whether it’s books, TV shows or my long list of hobbies, Once I find something that I love, expect that I’ll be pouring my heart and soul into that and know that I’ll do everything in my power to learn as much as I can about it so I can turn the visions in my head into a reality.

FN: With so many things on your plate – from being a student to a model and beauty queen, how do you manage your time? Do you even have spare time for other things or a break from your daily routine? 

Gwen: Honestly, I’m not even sure how I do it either. It really boils down to having a strong support circle and proper time management. I constantly update my calendar and one of my bag essentials is a small notebook where I can write down the things I need to get done. Of course, “free time” can sometimes be a bit scarce, there are times when I can’t go out with friends and family or I’ll have to let go of certain tasks/responsibilities because of how much is on my plate. In those moments I would remember what my swim coach always used to say, “just keep swimming”. When I start feeling overwhelmed by everything that’s happening, I often remind myself that there’s so much time present in a single day, more so in a lifetime and I just have to break everything down, breathe and to just keep swimming, eventually, you’ll come out of the waters and realize that you’re already at the finish line.

FN: When did your dream to become a beauty queen start? What was the motivation behind it?

Gwen: Although I started joining pageants fairly young, being a beauty queen was never my dream. I honestly thought I left that part of me in the past, opting for less of the spotlight or a public figure role. The intrigue was always about the personal challenge and the platform. I wanted to see what type of changes I could create with my title as well how I myself would change on this journey.

FN: How did you prepare yourself for Binibining Tagum 2024? How long was the preparation? Why did you join Bb. Tagum 2024?

Gwen: The preparations lasted for about 2 months, though, I think I could’ve prepared more for the competition. Most of my team/trainors are residing in Tagum so the only time I could really practice my talent or the pasarella was during my weekly visits to Tagum on Saturdays or Sundays, if my coaches were available. The QnA schedule was a little more difficult to insert since my mentor is currently living in the US so there’s the issue of differing time zones on top of the 31 units I’m taking in school as well as the hectic competition schedule. A lot of the time, it really comes down to self studying so analyzing your own strengths and weaknesses and looking into how you can improve those aspects. I entered the competition not really expecting to win any awards, let alone the crown. My motivation was always about gaining more influence so I can have a wider audience and a bigger platform to show the causes I believed in.

FN: As the newly crowned Bb. Tagum 2024, how would this change your life and your perspective as a young woman, who is not only an achiever but an advocate of several social concerns as well?

Gwen: It hasn’t really sunk in yet, I feel I won't be able to fully answer that question until later in my reign but it has given me a lot of influence. I’ve been getting nonstop messages from my supporters, from people who are asking for my time to interview me, as well as brands and businesses who would love to work with me. I’ve been attending the city’s events and I’ll be doing more of that in the near future. The crown has given me an opportunity to broaden my perspective on the issues and programs of the city. It’s been a lot, honestly but besides that, I’m glad not much has changed. I’m pretty much still the same person, just a little wiser and more informed as the days pass, and hopefully, I can use the overwhelming support and my newfound influence to widen my reach and social network so that I can collaborate with more people, especially on my future projects and advocacies.

FN: As a spokesperson of the City of Tagum, what advocacies are you planning to carry out? Why? How will you do it considering that you’re in Davao City from Mon to Fri?

Gwen: I’ll adapt the current advocacies of the city like their projects on environmental preservation and rehabilitation, women’s empowerment, reproductive health and mental health while continuing to advocate for my own causes (education and livelihood programs and aid for minorities) through my socials like my Facebook Page called The Weekends Journal. I’ve been traveling back and forth from Tagum to Davao for a while now and I plan on continuing to do so. Since most of my classes are in the afternoon or evening, I have time to at the very least attend the events partially or if it seems like I’m short on time, I can either be excused from the city’s events or use my Dean’s list privileges and be excused from my classes. And yes, it does sound tiring but it’s nothing I can’t manage, especially with the help of the people around me.

FN: How do you see yourself 5 years from now?

Gwen: Hopefully, by then, I’ve graduated from my BSN program with Latin honors and already have my nursing license. I’d love to go on medical missions and continue doing charity work while expanding my own advocacies as well. I think a lot of people expect me to join bigger pageants now that I’ve won Bb. Tagum but it’s not a requirement and that takes a lot of time and preparation both physically and mentally and I know that I do not have that luxury at the moment. Although we do not know what is in store for us in the near future, I can only hope and pray that through God’s will, I am led down a path full of love and fulfillment.

FN: Please complete the sentence: I am Gwen, and I want to be known for ________.

Gwen: My initial response was that I want to be known for being me, my authenticity. I’ve lived a lot of my life chasing the expectations and ideals that people have for me to the point where I didn’t really know who I was or what I wanted beyond those expectations. I thought that I needed to be different to gain praise or recognition, but now I find the need for validation from others to be overrated especially compared to ideals like love, compassion, gratitude and generosity. I also want to be known as a leader, a mind that dreams bigger than what people think is realistic. I’ve always loved the word “impossible” because it’s a challenge, a test of faith and resilience. My achievements were born from seeds of doubt and discouragement. For me, they have always stood as a testament to what I am capable of and never do I fail to subvert people’s expectations of me, to remind them that I am more than the limitations they place on me. I want to be someone who inspires and elevates people to achieve more than they ever thought possible.

Thank you, Gwen, for being an inspiration! Congratulations to your mom, too, for raising a young woman with substance, who knows her advocacies by heart. Kudos to both of you!

(Special thanks to Decco for providing the photos used in this article!)


If you have special events, interesting lifestyle stories, and fashion tips to share, you are always free to reach me at mendoza.jennygrace@gmail.com. You may also follow Purple’s Nook on Facebook for more updates.


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